Cellist Woods Connects Identity, Belonging in Phillips Performance

Concert in Conjunction with Current Exhibit, 'The Warmth of Other Suns'

Cellist Seth Parker Woods. Photo Grittani Creative, Courtesy The Phillips Collection.

On Thursday, September 12,  The Phillips Collection kicked off their 79th season in their majestic and intimate Music Room with a performance of modern compositions by cellist Seth Parker Woods.

Woods’ performance was thrilling in its selection of relevant pieces that were not only performed and composed by diverse artists, but also were thematically connected to current issues of identity and belonging.

His concert was the first of many exhibition concerts at The Phillips this season which connect performances with current exhibits. Woods’ performance was in conjunction with The Warmth of Other Suns: Stories of Global Displacement, an exhibit about migration running until September 22nd.  The Warmth of Other Suns is a mixed-media exhibit that includes sculptures, installations, videos, paintings and a documentary created by seventy-five artists from around the world. The exhibit spans all three floors of The Phillips and seeks to deepen the discussion about society’s perception of migration.

Seth Parker Woods performed seven modern pieces, all by composers of color, including The Race, a piece commissioned by The Phillips and The Seattle Symphony.  This piece was inspired by Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series, a sixty-panel series of paintings from the 1940’s that depicts the migration of African Americans from the South to the North.

Before the performance, composer Nathalie Joachim offered a fascinating view into her thought process in writing the piece. ‘The Race’, a piece for cello, electronics and voice, includes text sourced from 1915 issues of The Chicago Defender, a newspaper produced for the African American community.

In the performance, Woods alternated between cello and electronics duets followed by playing a drone and reciting text such as, “nine human beings hanged within 24 hours… and today, a lynching party is pursuing a tenth member of the race.”

Joachim explained that she was inspired by both the message of the Migration Series and the physical qualities of the pieces. She incorporated the colorful appearance of the paintings into her composition with vibrant electronic music.

Woods is a young, up-and-coming cellist who focuses his playing on contemporary classical music. He is currently an Artist in Residence with the Seattle Symphony and released a solo album in 2016, entitled asinglewordisnotenough.

Wood returns to DC September 22nd with a performance at the National Gallery of Art, accompanied by LA based experimental classical ensemble Wild Up.

The Phillips’ season consists of twenty-nine concerts, including seven more exhibition series performances. The next exhibition series concert, Music, Symbolism, and Les Nabis: Axelle Fanyo, Bénédicte Jourdois and George Fu, takes place on November 10th at 4:00 pm and is in conjunction with Bonnard to Vuillard: The Intimate Poetry of Everyday Life—The Nabi Collection of Vicki and Roger Sant. The purchase of a concert ticket includes admission to the museum.

To learn more about Seth Parker Woods and his upcoming National Gallery performance, visit his website and the National Gallery website. To purchase tickets for future Phillips performances and to see the 2019-2020 schedule, visit https://www.phillipscollection.org/music.